Browns DC Woods hoping to return next season


BEREA (AP) — Browns defensive coordinator Joe Woods wants another shot.

Heavily criticized for a unit that underperformed, dealt with numerous injuries and didn’t always complement Cleveland’s offense, Woods said on Thursday he’s eager to come back for a fourth season.

He may not get the chance.

“I hope I get the opportunity, but that’s not my decision,” said Woods, one of Kevin Stefanski’s first hires three seasons ago.

That will be up to Stefanski, who will have to decide his friend’s fate following a season that didn’t go as well as the Browns (7-9) expected.

They missed the playoffs for the second straight season, and the defense’s shortcomings played a major role in Cleveland’s regression.

As he prepares to face the Pittsburgh Steelers (8-8) in the season finale, Woods said he has not received any assurances about his job security.

“I’m sure we’re going to have those discussions after the season like we do every year,” Woods said to reporters before leaving the podium after his news conference. “Hopefully, I get to talk to you guys again.”

Cleveland’s defense had issues from the start this season — with communication breakdowns in the secondary over the first few weeks leading to easy touchdowns.

The Browns blew a 13-point lead in the final two minutes in a Week 2 loss to the New York Jets.

The Browns were also hit hard by injuries — especially at linebacker — as starters Anthony Walker Jr., Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah, Jacob Phillips and Sione Takitaki all sustained season-ending injuries.

And then there’s the run defense, which gave up at least 150 yards in seven games — and has been exposed by opponents week after week.

There has been some improvement down the stretch, but Woods acknowledged maybe not enough.

“I know things haven’t gone the way we would like ’em to go this year,” he said. “I think we are playing better and it’s the guys out there getting experience playing together, and I feel like the guys we have on our team, because we have a young team, they’re all coming back next year.”

Woods pointed to his experience in San Francisco as an argument for him to stay.

The 49ers went 6-10 and 4-12 in coach Kyle Shanahan’s first two seasons, but retained defensive coordinator Robert Saleh after the 2018 season.

Woods joined the staff the following season, and the 49ers went 13-3 and won the NFC title.

“There was a lot of people calling for Saleh, they regressed a little bit defensively,” Woods said. “We had a couple key additions in the offseason and we went from last to first in the division. … So I feel like that’s something that’s possible here just with the roster that we have. And the guys will be better next year.”

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